Is a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet beneficial for autistic children?

The gluten-free, casein-free diet and autism: limited return on family investment

From Journal of Early Intervention

The gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet is widely used by families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A GFCF diet is an elimination diet in which a person does not eat anything that contains gluten or casein. On this regimen, all foods with gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and all foods containing casein, a protein found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are removed from the diet, leaving other edibles like meat, eggs, nuts, fruits, and vegetables as permissible. Despite its popularity, there is limited evidence in support of the diet. The purpose of this article is to identify and evaluate well-controlled studies of the GFCF diet that have been implemented with children with ASD. The paper identifies five suitable studies to analyze. The reasons families continue to expend effort on GFCF diets despite limited empirical evidence are discussed.

Abstract

The gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet is widely used by families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Despite its popularity, there is limited evidence in support of the diet. The purpose of this article was to identify and evaluate well-controlled studies of the GFCF diet that have been implemented with children with ASD. A review of the literature from 1999 to 2012 identified five studies meeting inclusion criteria. Research rigor was examined using an evaluative rubric and ranged from Adequate to Strong. In three of the studies, no positive effects of the diet were reported on behavior or development, even after double-blind gluten and casein trials. Two studies found positive effects after 1 year but had research quality concerns. Reasons why families continue to expend effort on GFCF diets despite limited empirical evidence are discussed. Recommendations are that families should invest time and resources in more robustly supported interventions and limit GFCF diets to children diagnosed with celiac disease or food allergies.

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Article details

Sarah Hurwitz
The Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet and Autism: Limited Return on Family
Investment
Journal of Early Intervention 1053815113484807, first published on April 9, 2013 doi:10.1177/1053815113484807

 

 

     
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